Thursday, September 27, 2018


Paul Simon in the '60s
Reading like crazy at the moment. Large pile of books arrived and can't wait to sit down and get down to some serious reading for my new project. First on the list is the autobiography of Paul Simon, that consummate song writer and one of my favourites from the 1960s onward. Discovered the fact that Paul arrived in our town of Brentwood, Essex, England in 1963. Our good friend, Dennis Rookard was very active in those days, working as he did for the local press. It was Dennis who recorded sessions at the Railway Hotel, King's Road, close to our station in the autumn of '63 and more so in 1964. Although it is such a long time ago, Paul will surely remember performances by The Thames-siders and other performers and the time he met a young Englishman Dave McCausland, who immediately liked Paul's musical style and invited him to play at his Brentwood Folk Club.  To be continued... 


The New Yorker highlights special moments during Paul Simon’s final show of the Homeward Bound Tour.
“His voice, boyish and clear, was something of a liability at the start of his career—he neither snarled nor whooped, like many of his peers, which led some critics to believe that his work was less urgent. Now it simply gives these songs an eternal youthfulness.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Oceania has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London and Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris, with the participation of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge. We are back in 1768 and Britain is in the throes of the Age of Enlightenment. As a group of artists agrees to found the Royal Academy, Captain James Cook sets sail on a voyage of discovery to track the transit of Venus and search for terra australis incognita – the unknown southern continent, as Europeans called it. What Cook and his crew encounter on arrival is a vast number of island civilisations covering almost a third of the world’s surface: from Tahiti in Polynesia, to the scattered archipelagos and islands of Melanesia and Micronesia.
The indigenous populations they met came with their own histories of inter-island trade, ocean navigation, and social and artistic traditions. This spectacular exhibition will reveal these narratives – celebrating the original, raw and powerful art that in time would resonate across the European artistic sphere.
Oceania will bring together around 200 exceptional works from public collections worldwide, and will span over 500 years. From shell, greenstone and ceramic ornaments, to huge canoes and stunning god images, we explore important themes of voyaging, place making and encounter. The exhibition draws from rich historic ethnographic collections dating from the 18th century to the present, and includes seminal works produced by contemporary artists exploring history, identity and climate change. Oceania continues the RA’s tradition of hosting outstanding exhibitions exploring world cultures.


Maps, artworks and journals from the
 voyages sit alongside newly-commissioned films offering contemporary perspectives. Examine the expeditions that shaped Europe’s knowledge of the world and consider their far-reaching legacy.
See Cook’s handwritten journal detailing the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle, when they travelled further south than anyone in the world, stunning artwork including the earliest European depiction of a kangaroo, and intricate maps charting the v
It is 250 years since the Endeavour set sail from Plymouth. Our exhibition tells the story of Captain James Cook’s three world-changing voyages through original documents, many of which were produced by the artists, scientists and sailors on board the ships.
oyages that spanned more than a decade. Learn about the experiences on board the Endeavour, Resolution and Discovery, and the impact of their arrival.
Drawings by the Polynesian high priest and navigator Tupaia, who accompanied Cook to New Zealand and Australia, will be displayed together for the first time. These will sit alongside works by expedition artists Sydney Parkinson, William Hodges and John Webber. 
Visit our James Cook: The Voyages website for a range of different perspectives on the voyages and their legacy and impact. These include responses from people of the communities Cook encountered, documented and learned from. You can also follow the
Hear the stories. Read the diaries. Revisit the momentous voyages made 250 years ago.
 timeline of the journeys, read articles about the individual voyages and immerse yourself in the expeditions through our digitised collection items.
Note: You may find the PACCAR Gallery cooler than other areas of the Library. This controlled environment protects any items that may be damaged in humid conditions. We recommend bringing an extra layer for your comfort.
Find out more about the learning programme to accompany the exhibition, including school workshopsteacher events and adult courses

Saturday, September 22, 2018


Isn't it always the way when you are writing a book?  Often folk promise to provide photos and information, invariably, the material arrives too late for your publishers' deadline date!  At a book signing recently, this unusual image was sent tome by a very kind former resident living in Heathway, Dagenham. It is an image of the Methodist church which played such a communal part in many of our young lives.  I would have loved to have included it in my book BARKING & DAGENHAM FROM OLD PHOTOGRAPHS - Amberley Publishing Ltd - Stroud.

Everything revolved around this building - Brownies, Guides,  Girls' Life Brigade, and of course, the equivalent for boys. Concerts, parties, recitals and film afternoons showing Flash Gordon and, Sunday church services, of course.  How could such an enormous building with spacious grounds to the rear be destroyed?  Progress, I suppose and profit!

Here we have an artist's impression of when the Central Hall was first built in 1925 and which is included in my book, alongside a few hundred other photographs of many places in this area.

Many thanks to those former residents who have sent such lovely emails which, in themselves have brought back such poignant memories.

Currently working on a new project linked to Brentwood in Essex. Have some wonderful images already, but who knows what's out there! 

If interested, do make contact (in good time please) 

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Lady Howard and Jane Corry both great novelists
Great lunch at National Liberal Club today with lots of friends and some new faces including, Andrew Lewer MP and our very own SWWJ member Jane Corry. Each took the rostrum and both were  inspirational in their different ways. Jane told us about her life and times  particularly following the publication of three best selling novels, the latest being  The Dead Ex which she signed today for many of our friends attending this special afternoon. 


On the evening of 11 October 2018 at the Stripe Theatre at the University of Winchester, the English Project will present its Annual English Language Day Lecture. Doors open at 17.45.  The lecture begins at 18.15.
‘Women and the English Language: A Conversation with Susie Dent’
A conversation with Susie Dent, one of England’s greatest lexicographers, will explore the way in which women use the English Language and in which the English language uses women. Questions will be put to Susie by the English Project and the Audience. Come armed with questions, but also send us questions in advance by return of this message.
In 1918, the British granted votes for the first time to women. In 2018, the Centennial year of that event, the English Project has been reflecting on women and the English language.
Susie Dent is a leading English-language lexicographer, best known as the resident dictionary expert and adjudicator on Channel 4’s long-running game show Countdown. She has written fourteen books on the English language, on subjects as varied as language change, dialect, word origins, and tribal conversation.. Susie is also an experienced broadcaster and has presented and appeared on many radio and television programmes, including Americanize for Radio 4, which examined the history of British antipathy towards US English. Her special interest is etymology, and the secret lives hidden behind the most ordinary of words. 
English Language Day. On 13 October 1362, a Westminster Parliament was convened that approved a Statute of Pleading that permitted the use of the English language in Parliament on the grounds that French was ‘much unknown’ in England. The Normans, Angevins and Plantagenets had up to that time ruled England in French. Then English was a forbidden and a despised language, but 13 October 1362 saw English on its way to becoming the twenty-first century’s Global Language. For more on this and much else related, read the English Project’s History of the English Language in 100 Places by Bill Lucas and Christopher Mulvey. See: 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Big day tomorrow when members of SWWJ, friends and guests will be meeting our guest speakers, MP Andrew Lewer MBE and SWWJ colleague, Jane Corry at our Autumn Lunch in London. Jane's work has been hitting the headlines over the last few years and she is now a Sunday Times best-selling author.  Jane has been writing short stories for national journals for many years.   
Recently, Jane's son, Giles Bidder visited our local radio studio in Brentwood Phoenix 98fm  to talk about his own successful career in journalism and music, and was able to give us the lowdown on his Mum's latest success. 
Review of her latest novel below.
As a keen gardener, I was delighted with the opening of this third novel from Sunday Times’ Best Selling author (and SWWJ colleague) Jane Corry. Essential oils, herbs and wild flowers are the tools of protagonist Vicki’s healing aromatherapy business based in Penzance, and one that has given this psychologically- damaged woman a degree of balance and peace following years of abuse and wretchedness.
Vicki’s tranquillity is disturbed, with the mind-boggling door-step appearance - one cold, February evening - of the police. So begins a nightmare involving her ex-husband David whom she insists she hasn’t seen since their divorce years earlier. He has been reported by Tanya, his new wife, as missing and, although Vicki has no idea of his whereabouts, she realises that she still cares for him and as there is a strong suspicion that he is dead, her mind begins to reflect on their marriage and its harrowing finale.
Then we are introduced to eight-year-old Scarlet whom Mum (Zelda) compliments as her ‘clever grown-up girl" who unwittingly helps Mum pass on her drugs via their well practised ‘swing game’ in the park. Soon, Mum is caught and imprisoned, and young Scarlet enters foster care – a singularly dreadful experience, in her case, that shapes the rest of her life.

We meet other unfortunate female characters as the plot unfolds and the reader learns quite a lot about women’s prisons and those who administer control therein. "Time goes slowly in prison. For inmates, that is." Here we have first-hand experience, as the author spent three hair-raising years, working as ‘Writer-in-Residence’ in a high security men’s prison, which has helped inspire this and Corry’s other psychological thrillers, one of which is destined to be filmed soon for television. I moved through the pages rapidly, not expecting the twists and turns of this gripping novel and I must admit, I was hooked. Now want to read more of Jane Corry’s work.    

Friday, September 14, 2018


Dawn, Anita, Jim, Joan, Patrick and Sylvia at the end of a fascinating day spent with fellow writers, photographers and other creative folk at Galleywood Heritage Centre, not far from Chelmsford, Essex, England.
(Image courtesy of John Cummin)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Billericay's famous Mill Meadows Nature Reserve was the place to be on Sunday morning. This special green area is a 90-acre site fairly close to the centre of our small town in Essex. Open to the public all year round, visitors can explore the beautiful meadows and woodlands and spot a range of wildlife.

But Sunday's special open day was rather special with so many friends turning up. It was well organised by the Mill Meadows' team and obviously a huge amount of work was involved with clearing the site in readiness for the collection of interesting stalls.  Loved the honey table with Frances Adam, a local beekeeper and I enjoyed a chat about my last batch of mead. Among the collection of stalls and tables, were the Cater Museum hosted by Katie Wilkie, Trevor Jeffery with samples from his Billericay Brewing Company, particularly his special Zeppelin Beer. There were many other stalls selling the weird and wonderful, colourful and delicious!
Thomas Wood (Ross Holland) and Lord Petre who opened this special occasion
We arrived in time to snap Lord Petre and "Thomas Wood", that historical 'ghastly' miller who welcomed visitors to this countryside event. Here are a few more pictures from a fascinating visit.  

Billericay Archive Member David D'eath and a young visitor
By the way, stories of Mill Meadows are reproduced in one of my early books  BILLERICAY VOICES which outlines some of the town's famous people past and present and their links with this lively place in Essex. We have a few copies left - so do make contact via

Tuesday, September 04, 2018


John Baron MP: 2018 Fun Walk smashes £1,000,000

2,000 walkers and stallholders raise money for numerous charities

The annual Fun Walk took place at Barleylands Farm yesterday (Sunday, 2 September). Around 2,000 walkers and stallholders raised money for numerous charities and good causes. Because we now already know the amount donated into this year’s bonus pot, we know yesterday’s walk will bring the total monies raised since the Fun Walk’s inception in 2002 to over £1,000,000.

The exact monies raised by the charities at yesterday's event will be made known at the Presentation evening on 23 November 2018 (at Anisha Grange, Hallmark Care Homes, Billericay) when bonus pot cheques will be awarded to each charity and good cause taking part. As usual, the bonus pot sponsors and the local press will be invited.

Yesterday, there was a massive BBQ courtesy of 'Team Handsome', music courtesy of Gateway 97.8, a field bordered by stalls and a variety of other refreshment tents. Billericay's Town Crier, Jim Shrubb, helped proceedings along. John also said a few words of thanks before he and Jim led the walk off. As usual, medals were awarded to the walkers at the finish.

John said:

"This year's walk has smashed £1,000,000 in total monies raised since we started the walk in 2002. It has been a tremendous effort by our family of volunteers, to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude. Many good causes, people less fortunate than ourselves, and animals in need, have all been helped by our efforts – we can be very proud.”

“My thanks for Sunday’s walk go to the 2,000 walkers and stallholders for taking part, to the Marshalls, to the wonderful team at Barleylands for hosting the walk, to the Army cadets for car parking duties, and to our own family of volunteers and Committee members for making it all possible. We now wait to see total monies raised from the charities."

"Our thanks also go to our bonus pot sponsors which this year were Swan Housing, c2c, Abellio Greater Anglia, Tunnelcraft Ltd, Brown & Carroll, Hallmark Care Homes, Leonardo, McDonald’s, RSE Building Services and others.  Their £40,000 will help many good causes and actually pushed us over the £1,000,000 mark before the charities themselves raised any money on the day."

"Finally, our thanks go to Hallmark Care Homes for sponsoring the medals, to the team from Waitrose for volunteering on the day, to Abi’s Catering Supplies Ltd, to Gateway 97.8 for great music, to the Essex Ambulance Service for also manning an ambulance on the day, and to Jim Shrubb, our Town Crier. It was a great team effort all round.”